The finite element method is used to predict the dynamic behaviour of circular cylindrical shells in free vibrations. A suitable shape function for the circumferential displacement distribution has been proposed. This reduces the three-dimensional character of the problem to a two-dimensional one. The simultaneous iteration method to determine the eigen-frequencies and eigenvectors is utilised for solving the eigenvalue problem. The accuracy of the method has been checked by verifying the results of known cases. Finally an experimental shell structure containing elastic rings welded at the ends has also been analysed and the experimental results compared with the theoretical ones.